The Life of Ludwig the Seed

By Alexandra Ratliff

Ludwigia photo by Janet Novak
Ludwigia photo by Janet Novak

My name is Ludwig the Seed and I live inside a seed box home. It is small and dark, but I am safe from the gusty outdoors. Today, I can see autumn prairie peeking through my skylight window and wonder what lies beyond these walls. What’s in store for me?

I hear human voices and the clipping of scissors, and suddenly my box home is tossed back and forth. The prairie has vanished, and I shiver as I hear a monstrous roar of a truck engine. I am bounced up and down for a long time as I am transported to a far off place. Finally, the bouncing stops. I can see an unfamiliar fluorescence, and there is stillness to the air in the building.

Then in a few hasty movements, I am sent through a black tunnel of a seed processing machine, squashed, and propelled through the air into a large dark seed collection box. I hear the same human voices discussing the pounds of Ludwigia they need. Finally, I am placed in a bag and stored a cool, dry room with tons of other seeds awaiting the next stage of their journey.

After a few months, I am moved from the safety of the drying room and hear the same monstrous roar of an engine as before. All at once, I see the prairie that I remember peeking through my skylight window and am thrust into the wind. I land among brown and green hues of soil and vegetation that are new to me. Ever so slowly, I feel something come alive in me, as though I want to take root and grow up toward the spring prairie light. I can tell this is truly going to be an adventure!

In the months to come, this seed, called Ludwigia alternifolia (commonly known as Seedbox), becomes a blossoming yellow flower in medium to wet soils. It is a native perennial that blooms in June through August. Seedbox grows two to four feet tall, has reddish stems, and alternating dark green leaves. The yellow flower is short lived. Seedbox is just one of the hundreds of flower and grass species that enjoy the same wild adventure as they are picked from the Kankakee Sands Nursery and are sown in restorations. Next time you are out in the prairie, see if you can find future Ludwigia in their little boxes, awaiting the start of their journey!

Alexandra Ratliff is a recent graduate of Chatham University with a B.S. in Environmental Science.  She is a Restoration Management Assistant at Kankakee Sands. Alexandra has always marveled at the beauty and resiliency of plants.

The Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands of Indiana and Illinois is 10,000 acres of prairie and savanna habitat in Northwest Indiana and Northeast Illinois, open every day of the year for public enjoyment.  For more information visit the Kankakee Sands website or call the office at 219-285-2184.


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